Break Through the (Writing) Blockage

6 minute read
Author: Jo

Frustrated af with your writing? Stuck? Hit a wall? Feeling totally meh about the whole thing? Looking for a way out of the world of sticky writing blockages? (ew)

Ok, how’s about an internet-attention-span-friendly listicle? Something quick ‘n’ dirty to help you get moving again? A LITERARY LAXATIVE, if you will? (ew)

Alright, alright, before we get too scatalogical, let’s get into it:


Gif of Giancarlo Esposito in Breaking Bad saying "get on with it"

#1: Stop making excuses

Honestly, why are you putting this off? What would you rather be doing? The washing up? Waffling about on social media? Working? If you’re claiming ‘writer’s block’ simply because you can’t muster the effort to sit down and write then give yourself a stern talking to and GET THE FUCK ON WITH IT.

#2: REWARD yourself with writing

If writing has begun to feel like a chore, make it fun again. GET EXCITED about it. Writing should be something you’re excited to do, even when it’s hard. Retreat into your fiction, or your research, or your memoir, or your dark and twisted dystopian fantasy world and remember why you’re doing this. Because you love it, right? Because it’s what you wish you were doing when you’re not writing. Reward yourself with 20 minutes, or an hour, or an afternoon of writing. Make it a special occasion. Take yourself out to a nice cafe. Buy a sexy new notebook. Turn it into something you can’t wait to get back to.

#3: Write around the problem

Stuck on a particular scene or moment in your WIP? Easy. Skip it. Imagine you’ve already written that tricky section and carry on as if it never happened. Or try approaching it from an entirely different angle. Have one character explain what just happened to another. Write it as a newspaper report after the event. Turn it into a flashback. You might find that writing around it suddenly frees you up to continue. And sometimes you need to know what happens afterwards to know what to write before. <brain-explosion>

#4: Flip the perspective

A lot of the time, the reason we feel like progress is dragging is because we’re too close to a project. Taking a step back and taking a new perspective can be an excellent way to view the story in a brand new way. That could mean re-telling things from a different character’s POV, playing with tenses, structure, narrative style, whatever. Jump ahead to the ending and try writing things backwards. Turn the whole thing into a series of letters for an epistolary approach. None of these experiments needs to be permanent. But mucking about with the fundamentals of your story just might spark off a new idea or give you a fresh perspective.

#5: Write something different

Hit a roadblock but still wanna write? You have our complete and free permission to put it to one side and work on something else instead. Anything. A piece of short fiction. A brand new novel. A play. A poem. An op-ed piece. A blog. A diary entry. A satirical article. A song. A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G. To make progress with your writing you need to keep writing. Keep that flame aglow and get the words out, no matter what they are.

#6: Move your arse

Exercise. Jump about to your favourite tune. Go for a walk. Do some vigorous hoovering. Get the blood flowing to your brain and the creative juices will also start to ooze (ewww). If your writing has stagnated, literally get it moving again by moving your body. It might be as simple as changing your writing location or pacing up and down the room for a while. Bum in chair is not always the right position to write in.

#7: Just do *one* thing

Pick one thing. Do that thing. It might only be a paragraph. It might only be a character sketch. It might only be reading an article for research. It might only be finding a cool lit mag to submit your next short story to. Minimise your daily to-do list to ONE THING and get it done. Do it, feel all smug, and then tackle the next thing. And the next, and the next…

#8: Pick a prompt

It’s inexcusable to complain that you have nothing to write about when there’s a whole WORLD of writing prompts out there. Grab the nearest newspaper and pick a headline at random. Open the nearest book and use the first sentence you see as a jumping off point. Browse photo sites for picture prompts. Try one of the writing exercises on our blog; try one of our freebie courses; or sign up as a Writers’ HQ member for inspiration out the hoozah.

#9: Say ‘fuck you!’ to imposter syndrome and self doubt

Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you’re not really qualified/talented enough to do what you’re doing. And it’s bullshit. So let that one go. Similarly, self-doubt is one of the most insidious and common reasons why writers feel ‘blocked’. So let that go, too. The only person you need to write for is YOU. And if it’s been a while and you’re feeling rusty, read our advice on how to get back into writing after a break.

Image of an orange circle entitled: The circley graph thing of imposter syndrome. Inside the circle is a smaller grey circle with the caption: 'things you think other people know' and 'things other people actually know'. Around both is a larger orange circle with caption: how much of a fraud you feel.

#10: Go back to basics

What got you into writing in the first place? Was it a cringey old story that you long abandoned? Go back to it, laugh at your cheesy, rough-at-the-edges writing and feel better about how much you’ve improved since then. Or maybe you started with fan fiction. Excellent. We love a bit of fan fic. You have a ready-made world full of brilliant ready-made protagonists to play with – that’s half the battle already over with – and you’re free to focus on plot and character development. Dig out the stories you wrote when you were yay high and remember how to write like a kid. Go back to where you started and figure out what it is you want to write most of all.


…just do it.

Image of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music with her arms outstretched dancing in a field of flowers in the mountains. The caption says: stop fucking about and start writing.
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